27 May 2022
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  • Pull Down The Sun - Gig Review: Aotearoa Prog Alliance Tour @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 06/05/22

Pull Down The Sun - Gig Review: Aotearoa Prog Alliance Tour @ Dead Witch, Auckland - 06/05/22

07 May 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

This was the first night of the Aotearoa Prog Alliance tour, which is a showcase of progressive rock/metal over 9 shows in May, featuring three of Aotearoa's leading progressive rock/metal bands - Pull Down the Sun (Whanganui), Elidi (Christchurch), Claemus (Wellington) plus a local support at each stop.

First up was Claemus, or at least a close approximation, as due to the wonderful lurgy which is COVID, plus a family commitment, the band was down to a duo of Taylor and Dan. Tonight they were performing acoustically, which meant we would be hearing some quite different versions of songs from the wonderful Daydream album. They kicked off with Aspire, with Taylor stood and singing and Dan sat on a stool providing backing vocals. One thing which impressed me with these guys the very first time I came across them was the sheer diversity of their music, and any band who state their influences are Karnivool, Mudvayne, God is an Astronaut and Shpongle are going to be quite different in their approach.

They may not have planned to perform in this manner, but it did mean they were able to really display how strong the material is, with Taylor often providing chords while Dan is picking, with plenty of room in the arrangements for the vocals to really shine. This is powerful stuff, with plenty of dynamics and it is hard to realise this is not how they normally play. The crowd may not have been jumping up and down, but they were certainly transfixed by this acoustic rock which also had plenty of prog elements in the way it kept switching and changing. The first song I ever heard from these guys were Hedonist, so I was pleased to hear it performed in a very different setting. There is just so much going on in this with different melodies and countermelodies, making it both massively intricate and simple in its approach. Tonight it was superb, so what on earth must this sound like in a live environment when they have a full band? They did just the one cover in their set, The Kill (Bury Me) by 30 Seconds to Mars, and they were stoked when the audience joined in. They finished the set with the title cut from the album which featured some stunning interplay, and even though they were only playing acoustically tonight there was no doubt they made a load of friends, and I cannot wait to see with as a full band when they make their promised return.

Next up were Crooked Royals, the only band I knew nothing about before tonight. Like many on the circuit they have been hit hard by COVID, and talking to producer and videographer Francis Wheeler before the show he told me he would describe them as a great technical metalcore band, so it promised to be interesting. I was looking forward it even more when I realised they had two lead singers in Lee and Christian, with the rest of the band comprising Jake (guitar), Keane (drums) and Conor (bass), so a somewhat unusual line-up for a metal band. They kicked off with Liberosis, and immediately we were in a very different world from what we had just experienced. There is a lot of complexity coming from the drums, tying in with the bass to provide a solid platform, while the guitarwork is massively over the top with a huge note density as Jake uses all the sounds (and strings) he has to hand. Then at the front there are two singers who are feeding off the energy of each other and the audience, literally ripping it up. The emotions coming off the stage were almost physical, and the only thing the crowd could possibly do was respond in kind.

The intensity was unreal, and it was incredible to think they had not gigged for eighteen months as they were playing as if they had been performing all the time with a total confidence in what they were about. While the focus of most of the audience was on Lee and Christian, my attention was mostly on Jake as his playing was incredible and I found myself wondering what he was going to do next. Musically there is a great deal taking place at all times, while all the band are feeding off the energy of the crowd, which kept driving them to even greater heights. We had some new songs in the set, and they slotted right in with the rest of the material and was received incredibly warmly with the crowd bouncing up and down right in time with the band. They finished with Ruination, dominating the stage, and surely it cannot be long until we see them again as the reaction was incredibly powerful and positive.

Then it was the turn of the Christchurch boys, Elidi. I was massively impressed with their Witches Brew single last year, and their show with Stonehurst was simply epic, so I was really looking forward to this and I was not disappointed. They create a wall of sound which is packed full of atmosphere and emotion, which although reminiscent of the wonderful Spook The Horses, is quite different to anyone else around. They also set themselves up quite differently, so even though they are a band with songs and vocals, Dan was pushed to the back next to drummer Steve. They may have put baby in the corner, but he was determined to make his presence felt, and is one of the best singers around – the rising scream on Annihilism was just unreal. Centre stage is 5-string bassist Troy Cameron who is flanked by guitarists Richard Jehan and Jack Orr, with all three using considerable pedalboards to ensure they are creating the magic and weaving together the threads which make Elidi such a force to be reckoned with.

Steve hits the kit incredibly hard, and it often feels like he is providing the foundation all on his own as the bass provides a counterpunch to the guitars as opposed to sitting back in the pocket. Witches Brew was an obvious highlight, but Haunting is another number which deserves to be called out, as the introduction is incredibly atmospheric and just as the title suggests, until it builds into something dramatic and far more direct. There are times when it is all about the vocals, nothing else matters, and then the instruments crunch in and they become another part of the maelstrom. While Crooked Royals were intense, to my ears Elidi are even more so as it is less direct with stronger builds. As opposed to creating a visceral reaction it is much more of a dramatic and cerebral connection, with the listener falling into a world of music where there is seemingly no escape. We were treated to a new song in Beginning Of Infinity which had previously only been played once before and is an unusual mix of gentleness and extreme heaviness, all imbued with the atmosphere and drama we expect. One of the things which really makes them stand out is while the band are incredibly heavy with such a solid bottom end, Dan is an insane vocalist who can shoot into falsetto really easily. This means he not only sings in a high register when the need arises, but he also breaks through with a strident and powerful sound. They ended the night with Genesist, downtuned prog complexity and atmosphere being driven from the back with stunning vocals over the top. I am so very much looking forward to the album when it comes out.

All the bands before had been leading up to the main event, the trio which is Pull Down The Sun. There was a minor issue in that the drum stool had been left in Whanganui but they weren’t going to let something as trivial as that put them off. Before tonight everyone had been telling me what an amazing outfit they are live, so I had very high expectations indeed and I was not disappointed. With drums and two guitars they have a distinctive sound, with Koert also providing vocals. They kicked off a storm with an opening number which is so new it doesn’t have a name, as they crunched their way through. Somewhat unusually for Dead Witch they also had a lighting engineer in the house, with the wonderful human being who is Bailey Roiall stepping to ensure they were making the most of what was available. Second song, Ngaro, saw Dan join the band onstage as co-vocalist, and it was really fitting as this is a song which has a lot in common with Elidi’s own material.

That changed considerably with Weta, where the guys demonstrated they can mix it up in multiple fashions as well as anyone, but when it comes down to heads down and see you at the end there are very few in their league, and by now the floor was bouncing as everyone got into the insane groove being generated onstage. However, one of the things which really makes these guys stand out is the way they mix it up throughout songs so one is never sure what is going to happen next. Stefan is another incredibly hard hitter of the kit, while Koert and Jason never stop moving, yet somehow never missing a note. In the middle of the set, they went into instrumental Kehua which had a much slower introduction, incredibly atmospheric as they gently interwove their spells. Mind you, this being Pull Down The Sun they were never going to keep it mellow throughout, turning it into a metallic monster before it got to the end.

Next up we had the title cut, Of Valleys and Mountains, and whatever intensity they were showing in the first half of the set it had now been upped as they powered through, yet they can just stop on a dime and twist into a totally different and new direction. The dreads went flying as the guys faced each other in the middle of the stage, with Stefan giving the kick drums a good workout, and the crowd joining in on all the lyrics as the band mixed prog, djent and metal almost veering into grindcore territory. It is this melange of styles combined with sheer heaviness, musical ability and the energy of all those on the stage which makes this band such a force to be reckoned with. They finished the night with another very new unnamed song, which again has a very atmospheric beginning, gradually building as the drums come in. This is almost visceral, building from below the stage to grab hold of the audience through their bodies before making it to their ears, punching and unforgiving.

What a night, four amazing bands, and if Pull Down The Sun, Elidi and Claemus are like this on the first night of the tour what on earth are they going to be like on the last? An incredible night, a sold-out crowd, it doesn’t get much better than this.


Photo credit: Kev Rowland

 

About Pull Down The Sun

Having played up and down their beautiful country, PDTS are no strangers to New Zealand. Boasting an international standard of modern metal, they have been hand picked to support many local and international acts. PDTS bring a wondrous reference frame of late 90's Deftones style riff mastery, coupled with modern influences of metal elites such as Gojira and Isis. In doing so, Pull Down the Sun creates a glorious set of imagery that holds true to sheer riff obedience, making motions from heavy and erratic, to dark and moody, through to light and uplifting with minimal effort.

Their journey through to 2020 brings us their debut album Of Valleys and Mountains.

Dropping on 12/09/20, Of Valleys and Mountains is a colourful concept album that channels their Maori heritage, exploring local legends that have been passed down through generations. PDTS’s debut album is centered around the Maori myths of the Patupaiarehe and the Turehu, an aboriginal people absorbed by Polynesian immigrants to New Zealand 1000 years ago.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Pull Down The Sun

Releases

Of Valleys and Mountains
Year: 2020
Type: Album

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